Friday, February 28, 2014

Top 10 Cool Things the Hardy Boys Have Done (Part II)

The continuation of what I started, a fortnight ago:

5. Traveling to Antarctica. The Hardys have been to lots of places most people will never get to go to — Iceland, India, Hong Kong — but Antarctica is a destination that impresses even seasoned travelers. So of course Frank and Joe have ventured to the continent, traveling there in The Stone Idol (#65).

So how do they get there? Already in South America, they take a plane to Punta Arenas, Chile, and the U.S. Navy flies them and their father to Byrd Station. Why does the Navy take the time to serve as their airline? Because Fenton is working for the man, unraveling a ring that steals materiel from naval bases. While Fenton investigates the base, Frank and Joe are sent to an outpost, posing as scholarship students. Fenton says, “You’ve got enough science from Bayport High to fit in without any trouble.” Sure, why not?

Although they do spend most of their time on the icy continent indoors, they do fly over the Antarctic through the South Pole on a clear day, getting a great view of the Antarctic landscape. They also visit a penguin rookery, where Joe Hardy, the great investigator and terror of the animal kingdom, is menaced by a penguin. It’s not all mystery tourism, though: they get lost in the snowy wastes, and Frank and Joe are later knocked out and left to die in the snow. But they get their man! (Fenton does not.)

4. Traveling to Easter Island. Travel to Antarctica is expensive and relatively rare, but it’s a trip that is relatively easy to arrange. (National Geographic Travel was even advertising trips to the Antarctic on Jeopardy! for a while.) But Easter Island is a different matter, even more remote from human habitation than Earth’s frozen continent. The island is 1,200 miles from Pitcairn Island, the closest inhabited piece of land, and Pitcairn Island has fewer than 100 people. Chile, which claims Easter Island (Rapa Nui to its inhabitants), is 2,100 miles away.

So after stopping off in Antarctica in The Stone Idol, Frank and Joe went to Easter Island. They charter a flight there to pursue a suspect authorities assured them would be jailed as soon as he arrived. On Easter Island, they meet quaint people with quaint beliefs, see the biggest tourist attraction (the stone heads), and are hit in the heads by a goofball wearing a costume. You know: normal Hardy Boys stuff.

3. Helping (temporarily) to foil the Cuban Revolution. While the Hardy Boys avoided being dated in one aspect by omitting almost all direction references to the Cold War or USSR, the dénouement of The Ghost at Skeleton Rock (#37) shows the problem of tearing your stories straight from the headlines if you expect the book or its characters to last for more than a decade or so.

By 1957, when Skeleton Rock was published, news of unrest in Cuba would have reached the United States. Many Cuban groups hated the despotic President Fulgencio Bautista, although the pro-business U.S. government supported him. Demonstrations and student riots were frequent by 1955; an officers’ coup in 1956, led by Gen. Ramon Barquin, failed. A pair of student groups stormed the Presidential Palace in an attempt to assassinate Bautista, but Bautista survived. And of course Fidel Castro and his guerillas had been fighting the government since their return from exile in 1956.

So who was trying to overthrow the Cuban government in Skeleton Rock? White American crooks, mostly, led by Durling Hamilton, a fat guy in a white suit. What’s his plan? Well, his gang tries to steal nuclear material, which he hopes to use to build an atomic bomb. Somehow — and here’s where the miracle happens — they believe this will allow them to seize control of Cuba. Probably it’s a blackmail plot, but it’s difficult to say exactly. In addition to this sterling plan, the “revolutionaries” steal air cargo to gain what they need for their cause. They smuggle diamonds to finance the revolution, although their method of smuggling is ventriloquist dummies. (Yes, they operate a company that distributes ventriloquist dummies, and they put diamonds in the heads of some of them to get them into America.) They also deal in a stolen wonder drug.

When you get down to it, Hamilton’s gang seems less a revolutionary cell than a successful criminal gang that has decided to expand too far. Instead of going into narcotics or something else profitable, Hamilton succumbed to the Fallacy of the Unbounded Middle and went into nation stealing. It’s an understandable, if tragic, mistake, and the diversified nature of the gang’s activities give the Hardys more threads to pick at to make all its schemes unravel.

The choice of villain shows how little those in control of the Hardy Boys books understood Cuba: criminal syndicates loved Bautista and his government. The mob was sad to see him go. But the Stratemeyer Syndicate, which wrote the outlines and commissioned authors to write the books, were racially sensitive enough to not want to make poor brown people the villains, vanquished by the mighty white Hardys.

Fenton gets a medal from the Cuban government for his efforts. Frank and Joe are rewarded not by the Cuban government but by an airline the gang preyed upon; they are given a “special radar outfit” for … Fenton’s plane. It’s a poor reward for Frank and Joe, but given how much they’ve made over the years, they don’t get to complain. Tony gets a “special boat trip” in the Caribbean from the Cubans, which sounds like code; someone on the cruise is going to get chopped up and fed to sharks. Hope it’s not Tony! Chet gets a family of ventriloquist dummies, which will gather dust in his closet as soon as he gives up his ventriloquism hobby — which should be about 10 minutes after the mystery ends.

In real life, the end of Bautista’s reign in Cuba came soon after this book was published. The U.S. embargoed weapon sales to Cuba in March 1958, and on New Year’s Eve 1958, Bautista fled the country with an immense fortune. In 1966, the story was revised, and the fictional banana republic of Tropicale was substituted for Cuba.

2. Rescuing the president from kidnappers. The Hardys are patriots, having received commendations from the Defense Department for their achievements in The Bombay Boomerang (#49), but they went beyond mere patriotism by rescuing the kidnapped president in The Billion-Dollar Ransom (#73).

The story of how Frank and Joe Hardy meeting the most powerful person in the world starts the way so many great stories do: with a magic show. Fenton is hired to provide security for a magic tournament, and he brings Frank and Joe along as cheap labor. But a third of the way through the book, Fenton is hired by the government for an important job, and he has to drop the piddling gathering of magicians; in fact, Fenton has been hired to help protect the president as he secretly goes to the Bayport Naval Hospital to remove a tumor. Unfortunately, Fenton does his usual semi-glutteal job, and the president is kidnapped; fortunately, the case dovetails with Frank and Joe’s investigation, and the best magician in the contest is a kidnapper.

To make a long story short, Frank, Joe, Fenton, and the Secret Service recover the president, who has his operation. (Which president is he? That’s a secret! His wife’s name is Marge, though.) What do Frank and Joe get for their heroism? Ice cream and cake with the president. Other than that, they get two things: jack and squat.

1. Space flight. No one can underestimate how awesome this is: Frank and Joe went into space aboard the fictional space shuttle Skyfire in The Skyfire Puzzle (#85).

It isn’t like Frank and Joe wanted to be astronauts. No, Frank and Joe wanted to be nothing but teen detectives. But — *sigh* — they and their father were roped into helping investigate sabotage at Cape Canaveral. They weren’t random choices; they were called in by Harry Stone, the head of security at NASA and a former NYPD colleague of Fenton’s. (In the Marvel Universe, the superhero Ms. Marvel was also head of security at Cape Canaveral before she gained powers.) Now, Harry isn’t looking to hire Fenton and the Hardys; he’s hoping for a favor. What can he give in return for this favor?

Passage for Frank, Joe, and Chet on the Skyfire, proving sometimes it really is who you know that gets you the cool stuff in life.

Of course the boys are stoked, despite riding on a vessel with a name that sounds like a synonym for a mid-air explosion. Participants in the sort of program that put teacher Christa McAuliffe on the Challenger have cancelled — given the attempted sabotage, that seems like a wise choice — so Stone is able to offer their slots to the dangerously underqualified and untrained Hardys. And Chet. Unlike McAuliffe and her backup, who trained for about six months, the Hardys have less than a week to learn everything they need to know before they head into space, and they have to cram in an actual investigation while they do so.

The mystery isn’t completely resolved by the time they are supposed to launch, so Frank, Joe, and Chet (an unpaid load, if ever there was one) carry their investigation into space. There, by threatening to let a fellow astronaut drift helplessly to his death and risking an explosion on the Skyfire, Frank gets a confession about the sabotage, which was designed to distract attention from attempts to steal the Longeye satellite, a device meant to aid the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI) and help the military as well.

The next scene after Frank threatens to kill another human being in the vacuum of space is a picnic, with plenty of hamburgers and potato salad. Because Frank and Joe (and Chet!) are just normal kids! Who do remarkable things!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Top 10 Cool Things the Hardy Boys Have Done (Part I)

Warehouse Rumble coverWarehouse Rumble (#183) is not a good Hardy Boys story. The plot is slight, the investigation is absent, and the boys lack all initiative. Most of the supporting cast isn’t around; Iola and Callie would rather be working at a food bank than oohing and ahing over their boyfrirend’s booboos, and the rest of the chums are off doing those quirky things Bayport teens are always doing (building ice boats, inheriting a curio shop, etc.). The rest of the Hardy clan is somewhere nearby but rarely appear, like good servants or bad waiters. Chet brings in a new character, though, a girl who is a friend: a redhead named Daphne Soesbee, who is absolutely nothing like Scooby-Doo’s Daphne Blake, in that she is not clumsy.

Frank, Joe, Daphne, and Chet compete on a reality show named, unsurprisingly, “Warehouse Rumble.” Most of the book focuses on the competition, which sounds surprisingly fun: two-person teams compete on indoor obstacle courses that are decorated with a post-apocalyptic theme. The kids wander through mazes, run across catwalks, shoot targets with a laser gun … if the warehouse wasn’t going to be knocked down after the show, the owner could charge admission and make a lot of money, I think.

Frank and Joe do well on the show, although — shockingly — Daphne and Chet do better. For most people, doing well on a network reality show would rank as one of their coolest accomplishments. And that’s even if you compared them to more commonplace, but still important, milestones: raising kids, finding and loving a spouse, working fulfilling jobs. But with Frank and Joe, a reality show appearance wouldn’t even rank in the top ten coolest life events.

Which made me ask myself, “What are the ten coolest things that have happened to Frank and Joe?” When that question is asked on the Internet, a top-10 list must soon appear. Today, I’ll post #10 through 6; in two weeks, I’ll finish it off with the top 5.

10. Christmas on Cabin Island. Spending Christmas break on an island in Barmet Bay is a low-key adventure, but that’s what makes it so remarkable. Children were never going to investigate the dangerous, thrilling corners of the underworld the Hardys touched upon. That sort of adventure just wasn’t in the cards. It was, however, just possible that they could convince their parents to let them spend a school vacation with a couple of friends on a small, local island where no one else lived, as the Hardys did in The Mystery of Cabin Island (#8).

They travel over the frozen bay on ice boats; the frozen bay isolates them, giving them a feeling of independence, and their ice boats allow them to navigate the ice in a way few others can. They stay in a cabin untroubled by the rules of adults: they decide when to eat, what to eat, and when to sleep. They tramp around in the snow all day, and there’s no one around to tell warn them about firearm safety or hover over them. (Someone should do that with Chet, though. He’s horrible with firearm safety.) They control everything they behold.

Of course there’s a mystery, which involves a code, missing stamps, and some pushy bullies. That’s beside the point. A week on Cabin Island is the real thrill.

9. Pilot’s licenses. Flying was a luxury in 1930, when Frank and Joe solved The Great Airport Mystery (#9). That story marked the first time the boys flew, stowing away on the plane of a villainous pilot. In The Mark on the Door (#13), they fly for the first time as legitimate passengers, heading south to tracking down a runaway witness in Mexico. After that, using airplanes to get around becomes common for Frank and Joe, and it was inevitable they would learn how to fly themselves.

In The Mystery of the Flying Express (#20) — an awful book in most respects — Frank is allowed to fly a small plane under supervision. In 1945’s The Short-Wave Mystery (#24), Frank and Joe both are instructed on the fine points of flight by a pilot named Stewart. Unusually for the series, the progression from “interested in becoming pilots” to licensed pilots looks well thought out. The Secret of Wildcat Swamp (#31) mentions they have flown with Jack Wayne, Fenton’s private pilot, “many times before.” In The Ghost at Skeleton Rock (#37), they’re learning to fly from Jack, and both brothers make an emergency landing. Both have become “expert” pilots under Jack’s teaching in The Mystery at Devil’s Paw (#38), and they get their pilot’s licenses in The Mystery of the Chinese Junk (#39).

Not content with mere pilot’s licenses — because Frank and Joe aren’t content with anything, really — they are licensed for float planes in The Viking Symbol Mystery (#42), and they have flown helicopters by The Stone Idol (#65). Because their father is rich and owns his own plane, that means Frank and Joe can fly anywhere they want, whenever they want.

8. Looting Guatemala. In The Clue of the Embers (#35), Frank, Joe, Chet, and Tony head to the fictional mythical realm of Texichapi, part of the real modern nation of Guatemala. Using medallions owned by Tony’s late Uncle Roberto, the Hardys and their chums discover a lost city of gold. Sure, they’re captured by the also-fictional Kulkul tribe, and Tony gets tortured for a bit. But it’s all in the service of adventure!

The Hardys turn the city and its artifacts over to the government of Guatemala. In return, the president gives them a letter of congratulations and first pick of the loot — as presidents traditionally do for foreign interlopers who stumble upon priceless bits of their nation’s history. Archaeologists assume this rule will hold, unless told otherwise: most artifacts go to museums, but the discoverers get to keep one or two valuable knickknacks that take their fancy. In this case, Chet chooses a “large, jeweled bowl.” Tony takes an “ancient, gold-encrusted bow and arrow.” The Hardy Boys think of others when they loot priceless antiquities; it’s what makes them better people than most of us. Frank picks up a “delicately carved bracelet of gold” for his mother, while Joe selects a small golden idol for Aunt Gertrude.

At that point, Indiana Jones shows up, shouting, “That belongs in a museum!” Or maybe that’s just what happened in my head.

7. Become mighty capitalists. In The Mystery of the Chinese Junk (#39), Frank, Joe, Chet, Tony, Biff, Phil, and Jim Foy buy a Chinese junk. The boys are not just admirers of traditional Chinese transportation; they purchased the ship as an investment. As a summer job, they want to run a ferry service to Rocky Isle, a nearby picnic spot, and they think the unusual boat will serve as an advertisement and an inducement to use their service.

Frank and Joe can engage in no activity that won’t lead to a mystery, though. (I’m sure the boys have stumbled upon mysteries while raiding the fridge in the middle of the night: The Mystery of Who Took the Last Piece of Apple Pie, perhaps.) Of course criminals want the junk, named the Hai-Hau. The criminals had stolen the ship to smuggle goods into America before the Hardys et al. bought it. Why do the criminals want the Hai-Hau back? Because a treasure map, giving the location of blue amber mines, is hidden aboard, and Tony accidentally discovers it. After the criminals are arrested, the teens receive a reward for finding the map: a 10 percent interest in the blue amber mines, split among the seven boys.

Is the ownership in the mines worth anything? Who knows? None of the boys ever mention it again, but they wouldn’t; no one wants to be the target of high-school moochers. The mines would explain why they are always flush with cash, though. And it amuses me to think of Jim Foy, who appeared in only this mystery, retiring from boy adventuring on the proceeds.

6. Regime change on Barracuda Island. In The Twisted Claw (#18), Frank and Joe infiltrate a pirate ship. A pirate ship, in 1939! While posing as common sailors, they discover their ship, the Black Parrot, and a fleet of other ships (many with “Parrot” in their names) are part of a worldwide smuggling organization. Hey, it’s not piracy, but given that traveling on the open Atlantic would become extremely hazardous in just a year, it’s still pretty daring.

The “pirate” ring, a descendent of a 19th-century pirate fleet, is based on Barracuda Island, which is claimed by no foreign nation, populated by relatively quiescent natives, and ruled by a self-proclaimed king. After the yearly gathering of the pirate fleet, where the captains report to the king and split the spoils, Frank and Joe incite a mutiny on the Black Parrot at sea and get off a radio signal to their father. He arrives in a U.S. revenue cutter, which subdues the ship; the U.S. Navy sends in a fleet of warships to seize the island.

Welcome to the American empire, Barracuda Island! Hope your natives enjoy the experience as much as the natives of all other territories who have hosted the American soldiers!

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Danger on the Air (#95)

 coverPlot: After an on-air interview at WBPT is interrupted by an explosion, Frank and Joe stick around to find who is terrorizing the station.

“Borrowing” from the past: Frank and Joe head for Mr. Pizza and the mall after Joe saves a man from death; the mall and an unnamed pizza shop show up in The Blackwing Puzzle (#82). Mr. Pizza, which is managed by chum Tony Prito, shows up frequently in the Casefiles — the Hardy Boys Wiki lists three of the books it appears in — and I’m betting it shows up in other, later digests. Unfortunately, all I can find in my notes is an appearance in Prime-Time Crime (#109), another TV-related mystery.

In Danger on the Air, Frank and Joe spend a lot of time at WBPT — serving the Bayport area since 1953 — but it never showed up in the canon. However, WBPT is an important part of Prime-Time Crime and is mentioned in Beyond the Law (Casefiles #55).

Frank and Joe (and Chet) are referred to as football players; Joe’s football experience is mentioned in Daredevils (#159). Joe also plays college football as a field goal kicker in Foul Play (Undercover Brothers, #19).

Frank jumped on the football train later than Joe and Chet. Joe first played in The Sinister Sign Post (#15), with Chet serving as an eligible receiver, but the text specifically says Frank wasn’t a member of the team. By 1953’s The Crisscross Shadow, Frank’s a three-way player who is the punter, quarterback, and captain; Chet was a two-way player, lining up as a center on offense and wearing #34. The Yellow Feather Mystery (#33) mentions Frank has been on the team for three years, meaning he either joined as a sophomore or skipped a year somewhere along the line. He’s a star in The Mystery of the Whale Tattoo (#47), a member of the offensive backfield in The Shattered Helmet (#52), and a participant in The Clue in the Embers (#34), The Mysterious Caravan (#54), The Vanishing Thieves (#66), and The Blackwing Puzzle (#82). Chet also was listed as a center in The Wailing Siren Mystery (#30) and The Mystery of the Aztec Warrior (#43), a lineman in The Arctic Patrol Mystery (#48), and as a player in The Secret Agent on Flight 101 (#46), Danger on Vampire Trail (#50), The Mysterious Caravan, and The Blackwing Puzzle.

The Hardys almost get thrown off Barmet Cliffs, near the Westview Apartments; Barmet Cliffs are said to be honeycombed with caves and full of abandoned mine shafts in What Happened at Midnight (#10). Bayport’s Grommet Park is mentioned as part of a blown ransom handoff; few of Bayport’s parks have been mentioned in the canon, although Seaview Park is also part of a ransom payoff in Mystery of the Samurai Sword (#60), and Bayport Memorial Park and its “Alfresco Disco” are part of The Apeman’s Secret (#62). Although it’s not a park, Shorewood Nature Center, a nature preserve, appears in A Will to Survive.

After saving a man’s life on local TV, Joe is besieged by autograph seekers at the mall. He is overwhelmed by the attention, but I’m not sure why. Frank and Joe have received a great deal of publicity over the years, and they are even referred to as “local celebrities” by a TV producer early in Danger. In The Sting of the Scorpion (#58), we learn Frank and Joe have fans, and the brothers give an interview to a reporter from the New York Daily Star. Their travel plans are on TV in The Arctic Patrol Mystery, and they’ve been told their exploits have been read about by people in upstate New York (The Night of the Werewolf, #59) and California (The Four-Headed Dragon, #69). Joe made the front page of the Bailey Herald for saving his father’s papers from a fire in The Secret Warning (#17). Their picture has been in the paper “quite often,” according to The Crimson Flame (#77), and they’ve been interviewed for TV “half a dozen times” (The Blackwing Puzzle).

In Danger Frank and Joe mention a few previous crimes they’ve solved, although I don’t think they are referring to any published adventures. Frank mentions a bank robbery in which blurry videotape of the robber was their only evidence for a while. (The Hardy boys fought bank robbers in the The Missing Chums [#4] and The Secret Panel [#25], but both mysteries are so old videotape would probably not have been used for identification or deterring robbers.) The High Rise Bandit robbed apartments in the Westview Apartments “a few months ago,” but neither Frank nor Joe mention capturing him or her. When an interviewer asks the boys what was their “most exciting” mystery was, Frank responded, “I guess it was that time we discovered this ring of smugglers —” That could refer to a previous book, although there’s nothing to narrow it down; for that matter, “ring of smugglers” could refer to almost any previous book.

Where Is Bayport?: It takes two hours for the boys to get from Bayport to Manhattan by train. On Amtrak’s Northeast Regional schedule, two hours from New York to the east is somewhere around or east of New Haven, Conn. (Despite New Haven’s declining population, it is and always has been too large to be Bayport.) It takes about two hours to get to Philadelphia, so if Bayport is in New Jersey, it would be the near southern end, although no Amtrak routes seem to run directly from southern New Jersey to NYC. On the New Jersey Coast Line run by New Jersey Transit, two hours from New York gets the rider to about Asbury Park, N.J., although at certain times, trains can reach the line’s southern terminus, Bay Head, in a little more than two hours.

At one point, the time of sunset is mentioned: 8:40 p.m. (actually, 15 minutes before 8:55 p.m., but I did the math). You might think that could narrow the possibilities, but unfortunately it doesn’t add up; even on the longest day of the year, none of the candidate cities has a sunset that late. You have to move to the north or west to get a sunset after about 8:30, and unfortunately, that isn’t conducive to selecting cities along the Atlantic seaboard, where all the cities are either south or east of New York (latest sunset: 8:31 p.m., EDT).

Priorities, man: After meeting movie star Wayne Clintock, Frank and Joe can’t wait to relay their brush with fame to the people they know. Frank thinks of Callie, his girlfriend, first; Joe counters with Chet, their best friend. In Joe’s position, I probably would have thought of my girlfriend next, if for no other reason than through the power of suggestion, but Chet has been referred to as the brothers’ best friend, so I guess I understand. But the next person Frank thinks of is Aunt Gertrude.

Gertrude. Why …? But … The purpose of telling people about celebrities you’ve met is to impress them or to share something with them because you’re so close. I’m not sure how Gertrude rises to the top of either list for Frank, but it happened.

I’d buy a ticket to that: Because Clintock is a movie star, Frank and Joe bleat about the films he has starred in. Drop Zone: Danger sounds like a rejected Hardy Boys title, while Hogan’s Law, War in the Streets, and The Last Blast are unremarkable titles. (There’s something of a Mystery Science Theater 3000 feel about all of them.) Clintock’s most recent film, Badge of Honor, shares a name with the fictional TV series in the movie L.A. Confidential, although Danger came out before the book or movie.

Beat the Hangman, however, is a movie I’m intrigued by, and one I’d actually stop to watch a few minutes of if I came across it on cable. Clintock plays a “mysterious gunman” in the movie, which, along with the name, suggests it’s a Western. The name echoes the title of the 1953 film Beat the Devil, although that John Huston / Humphrey Bogart film was a parody of film noir, so there’s probably not a connection.

Those were the days: A cameraman mentions WBPT was originally supposed to be the flagship station of a fourth television network: the McParton Network, named after its founder. In the discussion, the boys and cameraman mention ABC, CBS, and NBC, but evidently this Dixon or the publisher had no confidence in Fox, which became the fourth network when it began primetime broadcasts in 1987. When Danger on the Air came out in 1989, Fox had network programming for two hours on both Saturday and Sunday nights. In fall 1989, it expanded into Mondays, and it had expanded into all nights by 1993.

Although skepticism that a fourth network could be sustained was abundant when Fox started, other networks outside the big three of ABC, CBS, and NBC existed in the ‘40s and ‘50s. The DuMont Television Network was the most successful, running from 1946-55, debuting two years before ABC’s and CBS’s television offerings. (Like McParton’s fictional network, most the video of DuMont’s shows were destroyed.) Paramount started in 1948 as well but went off the air in 1956. DuMont was done in by a variety of factors: getting the short end of AT&T’s limited broadcast technology, lack of a radio network to solidify finances and recruit talent, competition from its corporate partner, Paramount, and ABC, NBC, and CBS monopolizing the three VHF stations in most markets, forcing DuMont to expand into UHF channels, which many TVs of the era could not receive.

Privilege rejected: In New York, Frank tries to get an appointment with the head of Mediatronics, an electronics company. The company’s busy president, however, rejects Frank’s idea of a meeting out of hand — as almost any corporate leader would, no matter what previous books tried to tell us.

Questionable grasp of “hottest”: The villain plans to sell the original recordings of Mrs. Brody’s Boardinghouse, long thought lost, to a television station for a half million dollars. “Some people,” he says, “… believe that the revival of ‘Mrs. Brody’s Boardinghouse’ is going to be the hottest thing on television in years.” I will point out it’s not the villain who thinks this but whomever he’s going to sell the tapes to. However, I highly doubt the 35-year-old reruns of a black-and-white series would be “hot,” even if they hadn't been seen since they originally aired.

The child doesn’t drop far from the family eaves: After catching Frank and Joe eavesdropping, Ettinger, the head of Mediatronics, angrily asks the boys whether their parents taught them any manners. He fails to take into consideration that Fenton, as a private detective, probably taught the boys to eavesdrop.

Enhance!: The Masked Marauder, the criminal who opposes the Hardys in Danger, is caught on video tape. Of course the image is from a distance and blurry; of course a video technician is on hand to gradually improve the image through successive iterations until the suspect is clearly seen. No one yells, “Enhance!” but they might as well have.

Maybe the Hardys should be in charge of the police: When a producer at WBPT goes missing, Frank and Joe try to interest the Bayport Police Department in the case. As the Masked Marauder has already been caught, the police decline to investigate; Con Riley shrugs and says, “We’ll do our best to find her, but … If you guys hear from her again, get in touch with us right away.”

The interesting question here is whether Frank and Joe are justified for taking over crimefighting in Bayport because of police incompetence, or has Frank and Joe’s hypercompetence taught the police to not even try? I lean toward the latter, but that explanation requires a bit too much metaknowledge from the characters.

Opinions: A lot of Danger that is not focused on the mystery is devoted to fame. Should we want it? What are its pitfalls? What are its privileges? Joe is sure he wants to be a movie star, but he freezes up during an interview on live TV, and he’s overwhelmed by a crowd of autograph seekers after people watch him save a man’s life on TV. Joe seems to be fine with the kind of fame that makes him recognizable or gives him access to secrets, but he’s terrified of fame’s other aspects.

Frank and Wayne Clintock deal with other aspects of fame. Frank is unable to secure an interview with Ettinger, despite being a renowned teen sleuth and the son of Fenton Hardy, and he’s actually unrecognizable enough to sneak into the Mediatronics offices. Clintock has to deal with the ignominy of people seeing his awkward teenage years in Mrs. Brody’s Boardinghouse after he’s spent decades building his reputation as a tough action hero; when you’re famous, nothing is forgotten. And because everyone thinks they know him and his motivations, he becomes the prime suspect for the attacks on WBPT. Everything works out in the end, but fame certainly complicates his life.

That being said, the author stops looking at the fame aspect once the investigation kicks into gear, with no one really noticing or contacting Joe a day after his on-air lifesaving; it would have been interesting seeing how friends and family dealt with Joe’s fame other than Chet kidding him about it. This aspect of the story gives way to a better-than-average mystery, with someone using technology to cover his tracks, and Frank and Joe learn about the differences between appearance and reality on TV. They won’t remember the difference, but that’s OK.

Grade: B. Enhance!